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  • EMDR for Depression: Long-Lasting Relief that Really Works

    EMDR is a very effective therapy treatment, mainly used for trauma. But what about other disorders? Can EMDR effectively treat depression? 


    Let’s talk about Sandra for a minute. Disclaimer: Sandra is not a real person. But at Fearlessly Inspired Therapeutic Solutions in Maryland, we see stories like hers almost every day. 


    Sandra struggles with depression. Daily. She has trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Some days she can’t get out of bed at all. When she does, she spends much of the day trapped in negative thoughts and feelings. She tells herself she is not worthy of love and doesn’t deserve to be happy. And although NONE of these things are true, and people tell her that, she can’t stop believing them. 


    Sandra has tried every treatment she can find. She has gone to talk therapy, taken SSRIs, done CBT, filled out workbooks… She usually feels better for a while and then relapses into old beliefs, behaviors, and thought patterns. 

    Sandra Hears About EMDR 

    Like most of us do when we have a problem—she searches desperately on Google. Somehow she lands on a  page about EMDR. She sees that it works wonders for people with trauma. Although Sandra has had some troubling events in her life, she doesn’t seem to have many of the symptoms that often accompany trauma.   


    But, as she scours the internet, looking up, “EMDR for depression,” she starts to read some interesting studies. 


    She reads research studies about people who tried EMDR therapy and stayed relapse-free


    She finds an experienced, EMDR-trained therapist near her. In just 5 sessions, she starts to feel like a brand new person. She can get out of bed in the morning. She can look in the mirror and like who looks back. She is not constantly beating herself up over every little thing. She stays relapse-free. 


    Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? 

    While Sandra is not a real person, there are many cases just like hers

    If you can identify with:


    • Constantly struggling to the out of bed 

    • Feeling hopeless

    • Having a constant feeling of dread

    • Feeling as if you’re unloveable 

    • Struggling with suicidal ideation 

    • Trying other therapies and treatments without lasting results 


    …EMDR therapy might be your answer. 

    What is EMDR? 

    EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a highly effective, evidence-based treatment for a variety of mental health issues. It involves moving your eyes in a certain pattern, under the care of a qualified professional, and reprocessing memories, emotions, and beliefs that are causing you distress


    The ultimate goal of EMDR Therapy is to make it so that when you experience distressing thoughts, beliefs, or emotions, you will no longer be tormented by them. Those beliefs and feelings will not hold the same power over you. 

    What is Depression?

    Depression is an umbrella term used to refer to multiple depressive disorders.

    Some of the more common depressive disorders include: 

    • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

    • Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) (AKA Dysthymia)

    • Postpartum Depression (PPD) 

    • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

    • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

    • Atypical Depression

    Common symptoms of depression

    • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness. 

    • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness.

    • Loss of interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy. 

    • Trouble focusing, remembering details, or making decisions.

    • Irritability, frustration, angry outbursts for no apparent reason.

    Not a comprehensive list 

    Just because you don’t have some of these symptoms or have not been diagnosed with one of the above disorders does not mean you don’t suffer from depression. The best way to know if you suffer from depression and what the best treatment is for you is to meet with an experienced therapist.  

    How Does EMDR for Depression Work? 

    While EMDR is predominantly known as a treatment for trauma, using EMDR for depression is highly effective. In many cases, it works where other, more traditional forms of talk therapy may not be as effective

    How is EMDR for depression different than EMDR for trauma? 

    When using EMDR for trauma, treatment typically starts with focusing on the traumatic event(s). But when using EMDR for depression, the focus is on the negative thoughts or beliefs you hold about yourself


    Your EMDR therapist will first work with you to determine the powerful, negative thoughts or beliefs you have about yourself. These thoughts can significantly impact your quality of life and may include things like:


    • “I am no good to anyone,” 

    • “People are better off without me,” 

    • “Things will never get better,” 

    • “It’s all my fault,” 

    • “I am unlovable.”


    Of course, these specific thoughts may look different from person to person. 


    Let’s go back to our example with Sandra–She frequently tells herself “I am unworthy of love.” So rather than target a traumatic experience, the focus will be on her belief that she is unlovable. 


    Sandra begins with this belief, and with her experienced EMDR therapist, she works to identify exactly what led to that belief. Once the belief is identified, Sandra and her therapist work to challenge and ultimately change the belief. By changing the distressing belief, Sandra begins to see a significant reduction in her depression symptoms


    By the time Sandra has completed treatment, the belief “I am unworthy of love,” is replaced with “I am worthy of love” and even “I deserve love.” 

    How Effective is EMDR for Depression? 

    There are many studies that point to the effectiveness of EMDR for depression, over other therapies like CBT and more traditional talk therapy. 


    One study from the Journal of EMDR Practice and Research reviewed the effectiveness of using EMDR for depression. Researchers provided EMDR to 26 people diagnosed with severe depression. In just 6-8 sessions of EMDR, they experienced a significant reduction in their depression symptoms


    Frontiers in Psychology conducted a similar study in 2022, with people who experienced recurring depressive episodes that appeared to be resistant to other treatments, such as CBT.  Of the participants who successfully completed EMDR treatment, 74% experienced a complete reduction in their depressive symptoms and did not experience a relapse

    Those are just some of the reasons why Fearlessly Inspired Therapeutic Solutions (FITS) in Maryland believes in using EMDR for depression


    Our other reasons come from our own experiences with using EMDR for depression.


    At Fearlessly Inspired Therapeutic Solutions, we have seen huge, life-altering improvements in our patients after just 2 to 3 sessions

    EMDR vs Other Depression Therapies

    If you have tried other forms of therapy, but you keep relapsing into depressive episodes OR you just don’t get the relief you are desperately seeking, give EMDR a try.

    Closing Thoughts 

    We have boiled it down to 5 reasons why we use EMDR for depression: 

    1. It is an evidence-based treatment for depression.

    2. It can heal old wounds in a way that traditional talk therapy cannot. 

    3. It allows you to dive into areas of the brain that are often inaccessible through other techniques.

    4. It allows you to experience long-lasting results and get relief faster than traditional talk therapy. 

    5. We truly believe in the power of using EMDR for depression and have seen it work to permanently change the lives of our clients. 

    Your nightmare is over if you want it to be. 

    Fearlessly Inspired Therapeutic Solutions services clients in the Maryland and DC area who are struggling with mental health issues, such as depression, trauma, and anxiety. We have been successfully treating scores of people suffering from depression for 2 decades.   


    If you have any questions about EMDR for depression or want to learn more about how EMDR can help you, contact us today for a free 15-minute consultation, or call our office at  301-750-1065


    If you are having thoughts of harming yourself, please call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room. 


    For the suicide hotline, please call 9-8-8.